Editorial

Gun permits

Friday, June 4, 2004

Had Missouri voters approved a concealed-weapons proposal in April 1999, it was assumed that anyone wanting a permit would have been able to apply anywhere in the state. While the measure passed in 104 of Missouri's 114 counties, it was defeated in 10 urban counties and the city of St. Louis. This was enough of a margin to defeat the plan statewide.

When the Missouri Legislature adopted a concealed-weapons law last year and overrode the governor's veto, it again was assumed that anyone wanting a permit could apply anywhere in the state. But a legal challenge resulted in a Missouri Supreme Court decision that said the funding mechanism in some counties might be unconstitutional.

As a result, more than 90 counties are processing concealed-weapons permit applications. These are the counties where voters approved the plan in 1999. But urban counties and St. Louis are not taking applications, reflecting the will of voters in 1999.

The legislature could have removed the question about funding for processing permits in this year's session, but the Republican leadership chose not to make this an election-year issue. This leaves the legislative fate of permits up to a new legislature that will have a large number of new members because of term limits. And it means the outcome of the governor's race could have an important bearing on whether any bill would face another veto threat.

Meanwhile, it was widely anticipated after the Supreme Court's ruling that lawsuits would be filed to challenge the processing of permits. That hasn't happened. One reason could be that the issue of covering the cost of permit processing has not turned out to be significant. Most sheriffs' departments say they are not unduly burdened, financially or otherwise, by permit applications.

It would be best to have any unresolved issues about concealed weapons cleared up. Barring a lawsuit before the end of the year, it will again fall to the legislature to take action in 2005.

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